With a personal understanding of concentration difficulties, a passion for play and a love for teaching, Lauri Adams is helping children reach their full potential, writes Debbie Reynolds
There’s absolutely no doubt Lauri Adams is passionate about kids and occupational therapy (OT) – specifically how kids can benefit from the science. Her eyes light up when she talks about helping children cope with everything from learning difficulties and autism to sensory processing disorder and Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD).
“I know what it’s like as I was diagnosed with Attention Deficit Disorder (ADD) in Grade 4,” says Lauri. “From then I remember my occupational therapist being my best friend.” It was this breakthrough that convinced Lauri she wanted to be an occupational therapist, so after matriculating from Crawford La Lucia in 2008, she was accepted at the University of Cape Town where she completed her OT Honours Degree.
Her first year as a qualified occupational therapist took her to the rural town of Manguzi in northern KZN where she worked closely with the community in developing hands-on solutions for its children with special needs.
A stint at a private North Coast school was followed by 18 months in the UK where she gained invaluable experience before coming back to South Africa and specialising in sensory integration occupational therapy.
While it all sounds terribly complicated, Lauri points out that at its core, occupational therapy for kids is really all about play. “Kids need to be climbing, crashing, bashing, rolling and tumbling – it’s how their bodies learn to develop and function properly.”
We talk about how so many more children seem to have learning and concentration problems compared to “back in the day”.
“It’s true and you can blame nutrition and screen time for that,” says Lauri. “We’re not getting fruit and veg from our gardens or milk on our doorsteps anymore. Today just about everything our kids eat is packed with preservatives and contaminated with sugar and very little is organic. Children are being over aroused, having sugar spikes and crashes.”
Compared to a couple of decades ago children are spending way too much time playing computer games and watching television. Besides the screen light disturbing sleep patterns, continued time in front of the screen releases a chemical called dopamine which activates pleasure, the same way recreational drugs do, creating addiction and subsequent withdrawal.
“Sadly, this means children are isolated and aren’t socialising and playing like they used to,” says Lauri. “How many times have you been out to dinner and seen an entire family stuck to their phones or tablets instead of making eye contact and actually communicating with each other?”
Her advice is not to totally ban screen time, but to find ways to add more constructive play and recreation time. With her key focus on early intervention in children aged from two to 12 years, Lauri works closely with parents, caregivers and teachers to find the best solutions to overcome various problems.
She opened her own practice – OT for Kids – in Durban last year working at schools from the Berea to Ballito. “I wanted to return to my roots and to the incredible support of my parents, Brendan and Tanya Adams, and my boyfriend Gary Hill. I loved travelling and learning, but it’s also good to be home,” she laughs.
With her love for the outdoors and exercise, being based at Mount Edgecombe gives her the opportunity to follow a healthy and active lifestyle. “I love running, aerobics and yoga and I’ve completed several half marathons and trail runs, as well as the Cape Town Cycle Tour and the Midmar Mile.”